By Evan Chadwick
For all the draft day gaffes that marred the Knicks throughout the Isaiah era (who can forget the Eddy Curry for two top 10 draft picks trade), it is clear that for once, by the grace of the basketball gods,the Knicks administration got it right.
Iman Shumpert was a steal for the Knicks at number 17 and as he continued to grow during his rookie season, his value to the Knicks became increasingly apparent to those who realized that the Knicks would never win a championshipon offense alone.
With 9.5 points, 1.7 steals and 2.7 assists in his rookie season, Shumpert proved his worth in the 28 minutes he was averaging during the abbreviated 66 game schedule. However, what is not shown on the stat sheet is where Shumpert’s true value has been revealed. His tenacious perimeter defense along with the new style of basketball brought on by the Mike Woodson era was a vital component in the Knicks finishing the season on an 18-6 run, a number seven seed and then the oh-so-wonderful 5 game series with the Miami Heat.
The season ended during game one of the series for Shumpert, as he sustained an ACL injury that for all intensive purposes eliminated any chance the Knicks had at pulling off the upset.
With Shumpert’s return at least 6 months away, the question that may define how playoff ready the Knicks are this season, is how the coaching staff will be able to maximize all the positives Shumpertbrings to the floorwhile ensuring that he is given plenty of time to regain his legs.
It is no secret that the Knicks perimeter defense, with Carmelo and Amare on the floor was, even with the formidable Tyson Chandler lurking in the paint, average at best.
With the addition of Ray Felton and Marcus Camby, the Knicks should be able to make significant improvements on the defensive side of the ball this year. However, the key to it all coming together come late April will be the addition of a fully recovered Shumpert whocan transform the Knicks from an upset special to a full on contender. So how do the Knicks make this happen?
The final 24 games of the season gave Knicks’s fans a hint to this riddle, as it was in this period that the Knicks after years of turmoil, finally found an identity that the New York faithful could rally behind. Under Woodson, the Knicks not only won 75 percent of their games, but they also only allowed teams to top 100 points in 6 of the 24 contests.
During this run, Shumpert played 25 minutes or more 17 times. In those games, the team had a respectable 12-5 record and held teams to fewer than 90 points 35 percent of the time. Meanwhile, in the 7 games that Shumpert played less than 25 minutes, the Knicks went 6-1 and held teams to under 90 points, 71 percent of the time.
These limited statistics are revealing as to what the game plan should be surrounding Shumpert’s role during the home stretch of the 2012-2013 NBA season. Although Shumpert continues to show an impressive upside on offense, the unveiling of this potential can wait. Instead, what the Knicks desperately need and what Shumpert can surely deliver, is the concentrated high octane doses of defensive intensity that will give Knicks fans something to get a little more excited about, then the one measly playoff victory.
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